Lottery games are wildly popular across Asia. Their success is built on a combination of social and political factors: regional lottery participation is seen as a sign of belonging to a community, and winning the jackpot is a major ego boost. In addition, the proceeds of these games fund community improvements and help families make ends meet. But what is it about these games that makes them so successful?
The latest winner is a man from Jiangxi province who has been purchasing tickets for the China Welfare Lottery, or ShuangSeQiu, three to four times a week for five years. He has chosen the same seven numbers on each ticket. When news of his win broke, Chinese social media erupted with speculation that the numbers were “fixed”—that is, bought by a syndicate. But Li explains that he has been buying the tickets because he liked them and they looked pleasing. He also notes that he has purchased more than 100 million tickets—meaning that his return on investment exceeds $1 million.
With mobile penetration and access to online casinos rapidly rising in Southeast Asia, the lottery industry presents a unique case study at the intersection of digital innovation and market growth. This article traces the evolution of lottery participation in the region, and explores the potential impact of this growth on the wider Asian economy. In the process, it sheds light on a new reality that has emerged during the final decades of China’s last imperial dynasty: a world of nuanced competitions, strategic thinking by both players and public officials looking to maximize revenue, and a global network of players that spans Guangdong, Southeast Asia, and beyond.